Scotland Women star Jade Konkel is swapping Glasgow for Lille to play in the France’s elite women’s rugby set-up the Top 8.
Konkel, who was Scotland’s first full-time professional female rugby player, will join Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvois (LMRCV) who won the Top 8 in 2016 and reached the finals in 2013, 2015 and this year, where they lost out to Montpellier.
Despite being based in Villeneuve d’Ascq, the 23-year-old, who led club side Hillhead Jordanhill to victory in the Sarah Beaney Cup in April at Murrayfield will remain a Stage 3 player in the BT Sport Academy and be available to add to the 27 caps she has won for Scotland Women.
Konkel said: “This is a great opportunity for me to develop on and off the pitch in a completely different environment. It’s going to be a massive test for me personally but I’m really excited about spending the next year in France.”
Konkel will be playing alongside and against a few familiar faces, having played against France five times since her Scotland debut in 2013.
She added: “I went out to Lille before making this decision and liked what I saw. I follow the Top 8 and have played against France Women so have a fair idea of what to expect over there. French players are known for their physicality and they have a philosophy of keeping the ball alive so for me, as a big ball carrier, I think the move will benefit my game.
“The BT Sport Academy has pushed me over the past two seasons and becoming the first full-time female player in Scotland last summer was a dream come true. I’m grateful to Scottish Rugby and Lille for working together to make this next step possible.”
Konkel featured in Scotland Women’s wins against Wales and Italy in this year’s Six Nations — their first victories in the Championship since 2010 and the back row star was player of the match in the narrow loss to Ireland after scoring two tries.
Head of Women’s & Girls’ Rugby, Sheila Begbie, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Jade to further develop her rugby while also gaining valuable life experience in another country. She is absolutely dedicated and we will work closely with LMRCV to ensure she keeps improving.
“This is also recognition of the investment Scottish Rugby has put into developing the women’s game through the BT Sport Academy and the national team programme.
“We will continue to focus on improving the quality of our talented female players while also increasing support for the club game over the coming seasons.”
Head of Academy and Performance Programmes, Stephen Gemmell, said: “We will continue to support Jade as she remains a Stage 3 player in the BT Sport Academy for the coming season.
“This partnership between Scottish Rugby and LMRCV is for one year initially and provides the next step in Jade’s development. It’s a great opportunity for her as a player and for us as a governing body.
“Having one of our players sought after by a top French club speaks volumes for our women’s programme and the work that has gone into creating the foundations to develop our elite female athletes.”